In a good place in both his basketball and music careers, there’s not much that can keep a smile off Stephen Jackson’s face these days.
Three days into his first Spurs’ training camp since 2002, Jackson wants the world to remember his new rap album drops at the end of the month.
“’Jack of All Trades’ coming Oct. 30,” he bellows to anyone within earshot at the team’s practice facility. “Be looking out for it. On iTunes and your nearest Best Buy. Go get it.”
Only one thing could make Jackson’s professional life better: An extension of his contract, worth $10 million in its final season.
“I want it, but I can’t control it,” Jackson said, toweling sweat off his face after Tuesday’s practice. “Every day when I walk in here I’m hoping they’ll call me in and say, ‘Jack, here’s your extension.’
“I think I deserve it, but at the end of the day I’m still happy to be here and all I can worry about is what I can control, and that’s my play.”
He should not be surprised the call hasn’t come. When he returned to the Spurs last season in a mid-March in a trade that sent Richard Jefferson to Golden State, coach and president of basketball operations Gregg Popovich alerted him an extension was not in the offing.
Given that the swingman practically forced the Bucks to trade him to the Warriors last season by declaring it “mandatory” they extend his deal, his promise to earn a new contract from the Spurs through his play qualifies as professional enlightenment.
Jackson also is content with an off-the-bench role, anxious to see how things shake out on a roster loaded with talented wing players.
“At the end of the day we know Pop will do the best job of getting the guys on the court to win the game,” he said. “As far as roles, the guys who have been here know our roles and we kind of expect the same type of situation next year. I don’t expect to start and I really don’t want to. I enjoyed my role last year. We love our roles and just want to be a better team than last year.”
At age 34, could maturity finally have caught up with Jackson’s exuberance?
“He’ll come off the bench, he knows that,” Popovich said. “At this stage of his career, he understands what makes teams tick and how rotations work and how teams are put together.
Just like Manu (Ginobili) has come off the bench quite often, Jack understands that.”
Mostly, Popovich is optimistic that having Jackson from the first day of training camp will produce optimal results.
“I think more than anything, it’s about him being healthy, being in great shape,” Popovich said. “He knows our system really well, since he was already here. I think easing into things is going to benefit him, rather than jumping in like last year and having to get going off the bat.
It kind of put him behind the curve, I thought.
“Being able to do this at a decent pace will help him be more valuable to us.”
Jackson averaged 8.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and two assists in 21 regular-season games with the Spurs last season. His role expanded in the playoffs, especially the final four games of the Western Conference finals, when he made 15 of 21 3-pointers and averaged 15.8 points in just under 27 minutes a game.
When Popovich forced his players to re-watch the lowlights of their series collapse against the Thunder on media day, Jackson cringed right along with every example the coach had picked out from Games 3 through 6, but with the knowledge he had been at his best as pressure mounted.
“He wasn’t calling my name too much,” Jackson said. “I had a decent series so he wasn’t singling me out. It was tough because we’re not a team known not to finish. We were up 2-0.
We didn’t finish that series. I watch that series all the time and I’m still upset about it.” Spurs Nation